US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton boards her plane to return to campaigning after her bout with pneumonia at Westchester County Airport on September 15, 2016 in White Plains, New York.
Hillary Clinton returned Thursday to the campaign fray in a tightening race against Republican Donald Trump, who released new details on his physical fitness in response to the health scare that sidelined his rival. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan SmialowskiBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
© AFP

Hillary Clinton returned to the campaign trail on Thursday after a four-day absence due to pneumonia, as she tries to regain momentum amid a tightening of the polls

The former secretary of state, who partially collapsed on Sunday at an event in New York, arrived at a rally in North Carolina to the James Brown song "I feel good" and told the audience the time off had been “a gift”, allowing her to play with her dogs and “reconnect with what this whole campaign is about”.

North Carolina is one of the closest swing states that will decide the election in 54 days on November 8. 

The latest CBS News/NY Times national poll shows Mrs Clinton tied with Donald Trump, while a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls shows her lead has narrowed to 1.8 per cent. But the New York mogul has pulled ahead in Ohio and Florida, two delegate-rich swing states that will be critical on election day. 

Mr Trump has taken advantage of her absence by relentlessly attacking Mrs Clinton over her recent comment that “you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables”. The remark, made at a fundraiser, has helped Mr Trump, a billionaire who touts himself as an outsider, propel the narrative that his opponent is out of touch with ordinary Americans and beholden to wealthy elites. 

The candidates have tussled over transparency in recent days. Mrs Clinton has come under scrutiny for not revealing sooner that she had pneumonia, and also after her husband Bill Clinton revealed that she had previously suffered from the kind of dizzy spells that caused her to almost collapse on Sunday. She has tried to deflect the scrutiny by attacking Mr Trump for refusing to release his tax returns, which experts speculate would show that he paid very little tax or has not donated as much to charity as he claims. 

Mrs Clinton released a note from her doctor on Wednesday which said she was “fit to serve” as president. Mr Trump provided the results of a recent physical, which showed nothing unusual and concluded that he was in “excellent physical health”. The health of the pair has come under scrutiny since Mr Trump, 70, would be the oldest president in history at his inauguration, while Mrs Clinton, 68, would be second to Ronald Reagan. 

Mrs Clinton’s failure to disclose for two days that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia has been criticised by even some of her own supporters. In Nevada on Wednesday, her husband laughed off the matter, but bungled her diagnosis in the process, saying she only had the flu. “It’s a crazy time we live in where people think there’s something unusual about getting the flu. Last time I checked millions of people were getting it every year,” the former president told the crowd. 

Even voters who describe themselves as diehard Clinton fans blamed the campaign for turning what might have been a non-issue into a bigger debate over her candour and penchant for privacy. “It was a gaffe on the part of the campaign,” said Doug Geller, an air force veteran who has supported the Clintons for decades. 

The two candidates will meet on stage in 11 days for the first presidential debate, an event that will see the two most unpopular contenders in modern history face off for the first time. Colin Powell, the former Republican secretary of state, highlighted the unpopular nature of the candidates in leaked emails which described Mr Trump as a “ national disgrace” and accused Mrs Clinton of being “greedy”. 

The former chairman of the joint chiefs wrote that while Mrs Clinton was a “friend” whom he respected, he would rather not vote for her. “A 70-year [old] person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational,” he wrote. He also accused the GOP nominee of facilitating racism with earlier claims that President Barack Obama was not born in the US. “The whole birther movement was racist.” 

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